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Mahā-Ariyavaṃsa Sutta

On the four Noble (ariya) lineages, reckoned as ancient and pure, and held in esteem by discerning recluses and brahmins of all times. A monk is content with any kind of robe; he does not, for the sake of robes, resort to unseemly conduct; he is free from either selfishness or greed with regard to robes; neither does he exalt himself because of his contentment. So it is with other requisites. He also delights in abandoning and in meditation (bhāvanā). A monk possessed of these four noble lineages verily becomes a sage, praised by Brahmā himself (A.ii.27 ff).

This sutta was evidently a favourite topic for a discourse (AA.i.385, 386). The Commentary explains (AA.ii.494) how, for instance, anyone who teaches on the first three noble lineages — contentment with the four ¹ requisites (catupaccaya-santosa) – could bring the whole Vinaya Piṭaka to bear on the discussion, while a discussion on the bhāvanārāma-ariyavaṃsa could include the two other Piṭakas, chiefly the Nekkhamma-pāḷi of the Paṭisambhidāmagga, the Dasuttara Sutta of the Dīghanikāya, the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, of the Majjhimanikāya, and the Niddesa-pariyāya of the Abhidhamma.

The full name of the sutta seems to have been Catupaccaya-santosabhāvanārāma Mahā-Ariyavaṃsa Sutta (AA.i.385). It was also probably called the Vaṃsa Sutta for short.

It is probably this Mahā-Ariyavaṃsa Sutta which was held in such high esteem by Vohārikatissa, that he ordered almsgiving throughout Sri Lanka whenever the “Ariyavaṃsa” was read (Mhv.xxxvi.38; but see Mhv.Trs.258, n. 6). It is said that people would journey five leagues to hear a monk teach the Ariyavaṃsa (e.g., AA.i.386), and mention is made of Mahā-Ariyavaṃsa-bhāṇakā, who, judging from the stories of them (e.g., SA.iii.151), were extremely able and eloquent teachers.

¹ Although only three requisites are mentioned — robes, almsfood, and dwelling — it should be understood that a bhikkhu is also contented with any kind of medicine if it is needed (ed.)

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